The mental game
By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: D’Youville Athletics
Every athlete goes through a stretch where it seems whatever they do is wrong. Even some of the great have fallen on hard times when it comes to the grinds of tennis.
Most famously, Andre Agassi fell all the way down to 200 in the world and had to play challenger events just to get back on the tour. Losing streaks are part of the game. It’s how an athlete can work through that streak mentality is what separates the good from the great.
D’Youville College sophomore tennis player Amanda Waliszewski wasn’t use to losing. After all, Waliszewski was standout on the courts while playing her high school tennis at Niagara Wheatfield High School.
Losing wasn’t part of her vocabulary. However, college was a different story. Waliszewski endured a 10-match losing streak during her freshman season. A losing streak like that wasn’t easy for Waliszewski to handle.
She knew for her to get out of the rut she was in, Waliszewski would have to work on the mental part of her game more than the physical.
“My mental game in tennis is something that I have been working and improving on for years. It’s difficult. You can have all the right skills and the best strokes but none of it matters if you’re not mentally tough. During my doubles match I rely a lot on my doubles partner to keep my head on straight. We tell each other it’s no big deal, give each other a high five and get ready for the next point,” stated Waliszewski. “At the end of the day, you have to play one point at a time. It’s hard to forget about how bad you may have messed up the last point but it’s essential for success on the court. During my singles match it’s a little different because you don’t have that partner to talk to between points. Instead I often find myself talking under my breath to myself, just telling myself “you got this” or “go back to the basics” or “one point at a time.” With the help of my coaches pointing out things I don’t realize I’m doing wrong, I have found more success this season.”
After treading water her freshman year, Waliszewski has seen more success this season. She has been a steady influence on a team that was pretty young. Her game has grown since the last time she has picked up a racket.
All the hard work she did over the summer as has paid off so far for the sophomore. She has more confidence on the court and that has led to more success. It also helps that Waliszewski knows that to expect now.
Coming into her freshman year, Waliszewski didn’t know exactly what to expect at the Division III level. She knew she was good enough to compete, but she still needed to get a feel for the players and the league.
“The biggest thing I took away from last season is that confidence is key. I was always getting frustrated because I would hit so well during practice but as soon as I got to a match, I looked like I had never picked up a tennis racquet before in my life. I always was just so nervous and went in thinking that I might lose. Now, I go into my matches telling myself that I can and will win which has helped me better prepare mentally to step foot on the court across from my opponent. Also, I learned never to give up no matter what. Even if I’m down a game or two I always try to remember to forget about everything else and play one point at a time,” explained Waliszewski. “Over the summer I frequently got together with teammates both from DYC and my high school to just hit and have fun. I also helped my high school coach teach younger kids how to play and by doing so once I got to my season this year I remembered to just go back to the basics. I have seen a lot of improvements in my game this year just by remembering to do the simple things.”
Getting back to basics has served Waliszewski well. She seems more relaxed and calm on the court, and she it letting the game come to her.
Maybe that has something to do with another sport she plays. Playing one sport in college is hard enough, but Waliszewski has decided to play two. When the tennis season is done, Waliszewski puts the racket down and picks up the lacrosse stick.
Besides being a tremendous tennis player at Niagara Wheatfield, Waliszewski was also a standout lax player. When picking a college she knew that she wanted to continue to play lacrosse.
It just so happens that D’Youville has given her the opportunity to play both.
“I love that I have been able to continue playing both tennis and lacrosse collegiately. Back in eighth grade when I started playing each, I never had intentions of playing either sport in college let alone both. As I dedicated more of my time to improving my games, I couldn’t imagine putting down the racquet or stick after high school,” stated Waliszewski. “Once I knew that I wanted to continue playing, it played a huge role in my college decision process. I refused to go to a school where I could not play my sports competitively. I like to be kept busy and I enjoy a challenge. Playing two sports on top of a college workload definitely fulfills both of those. Getting to be with my teammates/ friends for two hours having fun & doing what I love is a good stress release from anything else going on.”
One would think that going from a individual sport like tennis to a team sport like lacrosse would be difficult. But, not so. For Waliszewski it has been a pretty easy transition from going from one sport to another.
It does help that the tennis season ends in October while lacrosse doesn’t start until early spring. The one thing that Waliszewski likes about the tennis season is that it gets her footwork ready for lacrosse.
“Not difficult at all. I love the game of lacrosse. Even when I’m in tennis season I’m always finding time to pick up my stick or make it to our fall practices to improve my game and vice versa,” stated Waliszewski. “Tennis season gets my footwork ready to be successful on the lacrosse field as a defensive player and my endurance that I build in lacrosse helps the following tennis season so the two work well together for me.”
While lacrosse season is still a few months away, Waliszewski is focused on helping D’Youville get back tot he playoffs. The wear and tear on the body from playing on the hard courts is something that Waliszewski keeps tabs on.
With so many matches in a short amount of time injuries can mount up. Hard courts can also take a toll on the a person mentally as well. Most of the season is played while the Western New York weather is still in 80s, which makes the courts even hotter.
Being able to fight through mentally is extremely important.
“I’ve come to learn over the years that rest plays a big role in staying in shape. I remember last year going to lacrosse practice, then tennis practice, then the gym, then going home to do homework multiple times a week. Mentally and physically I was exhausted and found it negatively affecting my game,” stated Waliszewski. “This season I have really focused on listening to my body when I need to rest or take it easy. After tennis season comes lacrosse and I find that the conditioning I do for lacrosse improves my speed and endurance for tennis the following season.”